Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Assaults most common at Billings Bridge, Blair stations

According to a report compiled by OC Transpo at the request of the Ottawa Citizen, there were 100 reported assaults that special transit constables responded to so far in 2013. Billings Bridge Station topped the list of reported assaults at or near a station with eight, while Blair was second with seven.

From the Citizen:
The figures include all types of attacks and many women’s groups say the latest figures confirm there is not enough public reporting of incidents when they occur and not enough special constables to target problem areas.
“There have clearly been more assaults than the ones reported publicly,” said Julie Lalonde, director of Hollaback, the Ottawa chapter of the international group that aims to improve street safety for women. “The only people who gain from the secrecy are perpetrators.”
Just last week, I wrote about the need for OC Transpo (and the city in general) to do more to prevent assaults on or near public transit stations and vehicles, including sexual assaults. If people are to use public transit, they need to be safe and they need to feel safe.

One way to make riders safer is to design safer transit stations. Although the City of Ottawa is talking the talk when it comes to safety-first station design, I wrote a few months ago about how that hasn't been reflected in their plans for Confederation Line stations.

More to the point, though, is the fact that there are many transit stations in Ottawa that have very obvious design flaws that, at best, make the feel unsafe and may in fact make them actually unsafe. Included in this category are Blair, Hurdman, and Lincoln Fields--all of which, to no one's surprise, were among the stations at which assaults have most commonly occurred. They're also all stations that have been cited by concerned riders because of their isolated locations.

Re-building the city's poorly designed transit stations may not be feasible right now, but it's clear that something needs to be done to treat the symptoms even if we can't cure the disease (more special constables, better lighting, increased promotion of programs in place, and so on).

More concerning, though, are the failures of this city to accept the role design plays in making spaces safe or unsafe and ensure that new stations are truly built with safety in mind.


David said...

Let's not ignore the role that the public at large, especially nearby residents and their associations, play in creating unsafe station designs, either.

The incessant demands to bury the WLRT also mean burying the stations and if there's one thing we know that contributes to unsafe stations it's burying the ones that are on the low volume side.

And yet that's basically what we're going to get with the new Dominion, Cleary and New Orchard Stations: out of sight, out of mind, and unsafe.

This seems to be another legacy of the Transitway - since no one wants to be anywhere near a busway, its stations end up being nowhere near anyone or anything and frequently below grade, and that mentality unfortunately has carried on into the early planning for LRT. By contrast, both Calgary and Edmonton have far more stations, especially lower-volume stations, in accessible and visible at-grade locations.

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